The health care industry promises to cut costs; al-Qaida targets Pakistan.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
May 11 2009 5:59 AM

Keeping the Doctors Away

The Washington Post leads with news that groups representing doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical and insurance companies are vowing to slow the growth in health care costs, an apparent attempt to curry favor with the White House and to become part of the bargaining process when the administration and congressional Democrats take on health care reform later this year. The Wall Street Journal's world-wide news box also leads with the story. The New York Times leads with U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials saying that al-Qaida has shifted its attention from plotting attacks on the West and now focuses on fomenting chaos in Pakistan and trying to support Islamist groups there.

USA Today leads with word that the White House will release a report today offering more evidence for the claim that the stimulus plan will "save or create" 3.5 million jobs. Republicans have contested the estimate; it's not clear from the story whether the new report is a response to that skepticism or would have been composed regardless. The Los Angeles Times leads with an analysis of how the increasing number of naturalized citizens is changing the face of politics in California, which is home to about one-third of the nation's new citizens. For example, "[s]everal polls show that Latinos and Asians are more supportive than whites of public investments and broad services, even if they require higher taxes," the paper writes.

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U.S. officials who talked to the NYT said al-Qaida's increasing Pakistan focus is a result of the U.S. drone-bombing campaign there, which has killed some key al-Qaida leaders and reduced the group's capacity to carry out attacks abroad. And an American terrorism expert says al-Qaida may be increasing its activities in Pakistan to foment so much violence that the Pakistani government will ask the U.S. government to scale back its drone bombings, allowing al-Qaida to regroup and again plan attacks in the West.

The groups offering to make the health care cuts—representing doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical and insurance companies—were among the same who opposed the Clinton administration's attempts at health care reforms. "But the explosive cost of health care has since strangled pay raises for most workers and slowed profits for many business, causing the industry to dramatically shift its posture," the Post writes. The figure the Post uses in its lede is $2 trillion, which sounds a lot less impressive when you note, as the Post does two grafs down, that that figure represents about a whopping 1.5 percent decrease in the amount health care costs would otherwise have increased. Still, it seems to have done the trick; the White House welcomed the move: "I don't think there can be a more significant step to help struggling families and the federal budget," one unnamed administration official said.

The NYT, which puts the story inside, sounds a skeptical note, observing that the plan has few details: "In the abstract, slowing the growth of health spending is a goal on which consumers and health care providers agree. But experience shows that specific proposals touch off fierce battles among interest groups fighting to expand their share of health care money."

Also on the front page, the Post reports on a pre-emptive PR campaign by an opponent of health care reform, who started running television ads last week warning against government-run medicine. A pro-reform group is countering by pointing out that the effort is being bankrolled by a former hospital CEO who was fired amid a fraud investigation and coordinated by the same PR company that "masterminded" the Swift boat attacks on John Kerry in 2004.

A global recession is appearing less likely, and, as a result, investors are putting money into emerging economies like Russia, China, and Brazil, the Wall Street Journal reports. Russian stocks are currently the best performers in the world, followed by Brazilians. "Investors appear to be trying to get in early on a long-term bet: Emerging-market economies will get back into their grooves long before the U.S. or Europe shake off the global crisis," the Journal writes.

Also in the papers: The humble, humiliating hospital gown may be on the way out, as efforts to engineer a better one are underway, the Journal reports. An animated film that examines the consequences of consumption has become a hit in classrooms across America, garnering some controversy along the way, the NYT reports on the front page. Syria is again becoming a conduit through which suicide bombers from abroad enter Iraq, the Post reports on the front page. And the economic downturn is, belatedly, hitting Iraq, the LAT finds. The LAT also looks at the first 100 days of Michael Steele's chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, and it is not pretty.

USA Today fronts a feature on the slow progress of Freedom Tower, the 1,776-foot tower that will rise where the World Trade Center once stood. It is intended to enhance the "brand" of freedom, as the paper puts it, but buried in the 51st graf is this nugget: Of the 2.6 million square feet, 190,000 is to be leased to a Chinese company.

Joshua Kucera is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C.

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